It won't surprise you to learn that Mattel's (the maker of Barbie) profits have dropped 20 per cent in just the last couple of years. Anti-Barbie sentiment has been bubbling away for years, fuelled by feminist arguments that the dolls promote unrealistic standards of beauty and poor body image for the young girls enthralled with her pink plastic world. While there have been numerous studies (and many a PhD thesis) on the effect of young girls playing with Barbie's impossibly thin hourglass figure, so far Mattel has been fairly immune to the complaints.
That is, until now. With the likes of Frozen and The Lego Movie propelling kids towards Elsa dolls and new female-friendly Lego lines, Mattel has been forced to do what many have been asking them to do for years: reflect real cultural and body shape diversity. So what did they do? Enter, the new Barbie Fashionistas collection, a range of dolls that now includes the original proportioned Barbie, but adds three new body types: Curvy, Tall and Petite. Each doll is also available in a range of skin, hair and eye colours - an obvious move away from Barbie's WASP-y blonde hair and blue eyes that have dominated her look since she was introduced in 1959.
If the carefully chosen names of the three new sizes sound suspiciously like a range of jeans (Levi's did something similar a few years back) or what Topshop have been doing to their range of clothing for years - it's probably not a mistake. Even the PC name 'Fashionistas' has been chosen so it won't offend. Naturally, Mattel have opted to skirt over the issue of each doll's ethnicity, preferring to describe a doll's "dark curly hair" as "right on trend". Laughable as this may be, it's probably a shrewd move on Mattel's part - who would dare argue with a Mohawk or red Afro-haired Barbie when she's just making a fashion statement?
And as for the three new sizes, it will be interesting to see which one little girls gravitate towards. In a Time feature focusing on Barbie's makeover, some have suggested that Curvy and Tall Barbie's new shoe sizes will cause issues, as will her new clothes which won't fit across all the dolls. As a Mattel rep says in the accompanying video, "We are in a position of progress, not perfection right now, and that's ok."
Perhaps Mattel are just cleverly preparing little girls for the discovery that all grown women eventually make: not all clothes are designed to suit every body shape. That's something every female in the world will heartily agree on.